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How the GOP Gun Conversation Played Out In Charleston

3 minute read

Just a few miles from Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the site of a shooting that left 9 black parishioners dead, Republican candidates all expressed their support for gun rights at Thursday night’s Fox Business debate in South Carolina.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was asked about the massacre as it relates to the issue of tightening gun control in the country to make sure people like the shooter, Dylann Roof, can’t get their hands on guns.

Bush also used the question as an opportunity to note the grace shown by some of the victim’s families in the immediate aftermath of the event. “I don’t know if any of us could have done what they did, one after the other, within 48 hours of that tragedy taking place,” Bush said. “In this particular case, the FBI made a mistake. The law itself requires a background check, but they didn’t fulfill their part of the bargain within the time that they were required to do.”

Roof was able to purchase a gun due to a lag in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. As TIME’s David Johnson reported in October:

It was this three-day NICS loophole that allowed Dylan Roof to legally purchase the gun he used to kill nine churchgoers during a Bible study in Charleston, S.C. on June 17, 2015. Roof’s background check returned a recent arrest in Columbia, S.C., delaying the transaction. An FBI examiner contacted the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, who told her to check with Columbia Police. The examiner couldn’t find a Columbia police department in Lexington County, not knowing a small part of the city of Columbia – where Roof was arrested – lies in neighboring Columbia County. Meanwhile, three days passed, allowing Roof to return and purchase the gun as a default proceed. “We are all sick this happened,”FBI Director James Comey said, “we wish we could turn back time. From this vantage point, everything seems obvious.”

Though Republicans waded into the gun debate by invoking Charleston, they mostly used the opportunity to attack the executive order that President Obama put forth on Jan. 4, which took aim at the so-called gun show loophole by expanding background checks to buyers who purchase guns from people who “present themselves as dealers” based on how they sell firearms.

“He doesn’t want to get people together, you know, the old fashioned way where you get Congress–you get the Congress, you get the Senate, you get together, you do legislation. He just writes out an order” Trump said. “It’s not supposed to happen that way.”

Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday that the president poses an imminent threat to the Second Amendment. The fact that gun sales have increased during Obama’s presidency, the Florida Republican said, is proof that people are afraid Obama is coming for their guns.

“The Second Amendment is not an option, it is not a suggestion. It is a Constitutional right of every American to be able to protect themselves and their families,” Rubio said. “I am convinced that if this president could confiscate every gun in America, he would. I am convinced that this president, if he could get rid of the Second Amendment, he would.”

President Obama has repeatedly said that he supports American’s rights to own firearms, and even suggested he and his family might own one if they lived in a more rural part of the country.

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